Can a dishonest cab driver ruin a hotel stay? No—but it did detract greatly from what was otherwise a very comfortable stay at Santiago’s plushest resort property. Grand Hyatt hotels are, true to their name, done on a grand scale and the opulent lobby—featuring a grand piano, marble floors, palm trees, and gold lions in a grand atrium—was quite impressive.
The check-in agent was courteous, though for some reason it took him more than five minutes in the backroom to make a copy of my passport. I began to think he was copying every page, though in my case that would have taken more than five minutes to complete! I realize government regulations mandate that hotels do make copies of passports, but I would rather see scanner or copier devices right at the counter—not only is taking every passport into the backroom inefficient and time-consuming, there is just something unnerving about it.
In any case, the room was fabulous. Designed with a view in mind (see pictures below), it featured a sleeping area, then a step down to a sitting and desk area, overlooking the plaza below. Natural light and light colors made the room feel spacious and I slept extremely well on the comfortable bed. The rooms have Bang and Olufsen televisions and I always have trouble figuring out how to turn them off. FYI, the off switch is the red dot that resembles a “record” button.
My room was on the Executive floor and I had access to the club during my stay, which offered typical evening hors d’oeuvres and a continental breakfast in the morning. I enjoyed a glass of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon as well as some some cheese, carpacio, and crusty bread as a small snack just after arriving—a nice treat. The view from the lounge was also spectacular. I had spent most of the day on a scenic bus ride from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago and thus had a lot to catch up on, so I retired to my room for the evening to work.
Having not had any dinner, I awoke early the next morning hungry, though I went downstairs to workout (the workout center and spa is in a separate building adjacent to the pool) because I knew if I had breakfast first, I would be in no mood to workout before I had to leave for my flight back to São Paulo. The fitness center was great—spacious, clean, and featuring modern equipment. Complimentary bottled water and even a personal trainer on hand was an added bonus.
Back from my workout, it was time for breakfast. Although the lounge only had continental breakfast—it perfectly hit the spot. The highlight had to be bread lathered in pico de gallo and guacamole (food I just do not get in Germany) but the fresh orange juice, bircher muesli, almonds, fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese, and cold cuts was a nice change from the egg-centered breakfasts I had enjoyed the last few days at the Park Hyatt Mendoza.
The hotel was apparently going to be full, because the first thing I was asked when entering the lounge was when I was going to check-out. Soon, I promised. Now on to the cab story: the hotel is not located close to public transportation—I took the Metro to the closet station (next to the National Military Academy) when coming in and it was a brisk 15-minute walk to get to the hotel. For that reason, I elected to take a cab from the hotel to airport, about a 12km journey.
When checking out in the lounge, I mentioned that I would need to be leaving shortly for the airport and the man who checked me out tried to sell me on the hotel’s car service. He came across as pushy and when I politely declined, he said (as if he was my friend of many years), not to worry and that he had a friend who could take me to the airport for cheaper than a cab. He warned me that all the cabbies in Santiago were dishonest and that I would be ripped off if I just hailed a yellow cab outside the hotel. I should have known better, but I accepted his offer to call his “friend” for an agreed rate of 20,000 pesos (~40USD) for a ride to the airport. For a 12km journey, I thought this was outrageous, but it was half the price of what the hotel wanted for the hotel’s car and after dawdling around in the room, I was a bit pressed for time.
Downstairs, a black Toyota pulled up and a very friendly guy greeted me and placed my bags in his trunk. Whew, this won’t be so bad, I thought. We made the quick trip—it only took about 10 minutes—to the airport and the when we arrived; I pulled out a 20,000 peso note and presented it to the driver. With a shocked look on his face, the driver said that 20,000 was not enough—he needed 30,000. I shook my head and said the hotel had said 20,000. He began to get angry, writing out 30,000 on his notepad. At this point, I had my bag so I could have just walked away, but I pulled out an extra $20 and gave it to him.
Why would I give in? Because I had a flight to catch and because I pitied a guy was so desperate for cash that he resorted to rip off a student tourist. He apparently needed the money more than I did, so if helped him feed his family, I will not lose sleep over the lost money. But it reaffirmed my disdain for cab drivers worldwide.
So yes, the cab experience did tarnish my stay at the hotel—especially because the cab driver was a “friend” of the lounge attendant. If you find yourself in Santiago, just take a metered yellow cab or a bus to the airport.
A word on the location—I mentioned my hike to the hotel earlier and the hotel is not in the very heart of the city. But for what it is—more of a resort property—it offers luxury and comfort for the whole family. If I was taking my family to Santiago, this is exactly where I would want to stay. The large swimming pools, multiple restaurants (none of which I had time to try), and health club all make the property quite comfortable as a destination in itself.
I do recommend this hotel and had a good stay overall. Just take care of transportation yourself…